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Full text of "The practical joke, or, The Christmas story of Uncle Ned"

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CHRISTMAS STORY OF UNCLE NEO 









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NEW YORK: 
PUBLISHED BY J. B. REDFIELD, 






CLINTON HALL. 



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OR THE 



CHRISTMAS STORY OE UNCLE NED, 







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NEW YORK: 
PUBLISHED BY J. S. REDFIELD, 

CLINTON HALL. 



THE 



PRACTICAL JOKE. 





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Welcome, merry Christmas and New- 
Year ! prized by children above all oth- 
er days in the year. Ye are associated 
with pleasant recollections of old Santa 
Glaus and sugar-plums — with bright vis- 
ions of a cheerful fireside, merry games, 
pleasant stories, and happy, smiling fa- 
ces. First comes Christmas Eve, when 
each young face beams with eager cu- 
riosity and delightful anticipation— all 
wondering and guessing what they shall 
find in their stockings next morning; 
while the eldest sister, with looks of 
mystery and of importance, shares her 



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THE PRACTICAL JOKE. 3 

mother's councils, and helps to distribute 
the precious stores. Soon they are in 
bed, anxious to sleep off the long hours, 
dreaming of rocking-horses and doll-ba- 
bies, tea-sets, wooden soldiers, and all 
the other delights of the toy-shop. 

I never heard of a lazy child on a 
Christmas morning. The idle and the 
industrious are all up, " bright and ear- 
ly." The well-filled stockings are ea- 
gerly inspected, good wishes and pretty 
or useful presents given and received, 
and various plans proposed for the day's 
amusement. Night comes too soon for 
the tireless lovers of fun, who go unwil- 
lingly to bed, consoling themselves that 
one week more will bring New- Year. 

Dear children, long may such inno- 
cent delights crown the year; and, in 
the midst of all, forget not the children 
of the famishing poor, who have no 
Christmas pleasures to look forward to ; 
whose parents toil for their daily bread 



THE PRACTICAL JOKE. 



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THE PRACTICAL JOKE. 5 

and scanty apparel all the year, and have 
no time nor means to provide themselves 
or their children with the comforts and 
luxuries you enjoy. Each one can spare 
a little to minister to the enjoyment of 
those poor suffering children, many of 
whom, perhaps, have no fathers to pro- 
vide for them, some of them not even a 
home to shelter them. Share with them 
your abundance, and the blessings of the 
poor shall rest upon you. And now, my 
patient little readers, for the story. 

One Christmas night we were all gath- 
ered around a cheerful fire in the old- 
fashioned parlor. Father, mother, sis- 
ters, brothers, uncles, aunts, and cousins, 
were all there. The blazing pine knots 
sent a cheerful light into every nook and 
corner of the big room ; the ponderous 
presses, and quaint old desk and book- 
case, reflecting the warm glow from their 
polished surfaces. 

The straight, high-backed, mahogany 



D THE PRACTICAL JOKE. 

chairs had been sadly knocked about in 
a game of blind-man's-buff, and looked 
as much out of place as a prim old 
maiden aunt in a game of romps. Nut- 
shells and apple-parings, kiss-papers and 
mottoes, strewed the broad hearth, and 
gave pretty good token of the evening's 
cheer. The clock had just struck ten, 
and we youngsters were warned that it 
was bedtime, when there arose a loud 
call for a story. A story from Uncle 
Ned ! We might all sit up to hear a 
story, if Uncle Ned would tell one. 

He, good soul, never refused a kind 
request in his life, and we felt quite safe 
for the next half hour. I think I see 
him now, with his trim leg encased in a 
fine home-knit stocking: — his bright shoe- 
buckles, and neat drab small-clothes — 
his queer-looking continental hat, with 
his gray locks appearing beneath it, 
and his hands resting upon the head of 
his silver-mounted cane. 



THE PRACTICAL JOKE. 




8 THE PRACTICAL JOKE. 

The chairs were set in their places, 
stragglers called in, and all were seated 
in silence to hear. 




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UNCLE NED'S STORY. 

" Many years ago, when I was a slip 
of a lad like Tom there" — " Why, un- 
cle," cried little Willy in amazement, 
" did you say you were no bigger than 
Tom ? Were you ever as little as Tom, 
uncle ?" — " Hush, Willy," said Tom, a 
well-grown boy of fourteen, " I 'm sure 
you need not make such a wonderment 
at that ; I am not so very small, and I 
expect to be as big as Uncle Ned when 
I'm a man. How naughty of you to 
interrupt the story !" 

" Well, Willy," said Uncle Ned, " I 
don't suppose I look much now as if I 
had once been a slender lad, with a soft 
fair brow, and rosy cheeks ; but 1 was as 



THE PRACTICAL JOKE. 9 

full of fun and frolic as the best of you. 
I will tell you how I once came near 
losing my own life and that of a friend 
and playmate, by my love of mischief. 
It was a Christmas night. "We were 
gathered round the fire just as we now 
are, cracking nuts, eating apples, and 
telling stories, when I proposed to Jack 
Thornton, and his little brother, that we 
should go for a skating frolic to 'the 
pond/ a beautiful sheet of water about a 
quarter of a mile distant. Instantly we 
were in motion, looking up our skates 
and mittens. Off we started, in high 
glee, promising ourselves fine fun on the 
ice. The moon shone brilliantly — every 
object could be seen with perfect dis- 
tinctness. The little pond, which was 
supplied with the purest spring water, 
looked like a sheet of silver, sparkling in 
the moonlight. I well remember look- 
ing down through the clear and beauti- 
fully transparent ice, and seeing the 



10 



THE PRACTICAL JOKE. 






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THE PRACTICAL JOKE. 11 

pond-lilies, with their broad leaves of 
tender green, mingled with rushes and 
long grass, while the little fish danced 
like beams of silver-light in the clear wa- 
ter. The pond was of no great extent, 
but toward the middle it was quite deep, 
and formed a fine broad sheet of ice for 
skating. 

" I remembered having seen the day 
before an air-hole near a rock on the 
opposite shore. I had tried the ice near 
it, and found it strong enough to bear 
my weight ; and concluding that by this 
time it was quite thick enough to bear 
two or three, I determined to play a trick 
upon Jack, who was exceedingly good 
natured, but a great brag. Nobody could 
outwit him, he thought. ' Come, Jack/ 
said I, * follow me, and I will take you 
where you are afraid to go/ — 'I afraid !' 
said he, ' catch me afraid — I can go any- 
where you can — go ahead !' Away we 
shot, like swallows, toward the fatal air- 



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THE TRACTICAL JOKE. 




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THE PRACTICAL JOKE. 13 

hole. ' Follow me,' I cried ; ' keep up 
with me if you can.' Thus stimulated, 
Jack kept close in my rear. My object 
was to avoid the air-hole myself, and 
just give one of Jack's legs a ducking, 
without doing him any further injury. 
We wheeled in circles round and round, 
until, making a quick sweep, and calling 
upon him to keep close, I dexterously 
made a slight curve so as to avoid the 
hole, but down went poor Jack, one leg 
and foot quite buried in the freezing ele- 
ment. It was a favorite trick with the 
knowing ones, and was never taken 
amiss. But in this case the joke was 
carried too far. Jack pulled and strug- 
gled to draw out his foot, when suddenly 
the ice gave way, and down he sank into 
the deep water. I knew he could not 
swim — neither could I. I was aware it 
would not do to attempt to get him out 
by going near him on the ice, as our ef- 
forts would only crack the ice and throw 



14 



THE PRACTICAL JOKE. 




THE PRACTICAL JOKE. 15 

me in too. But, as quick as thought, I 
ran on shore, threw off my skates, went 
to the edge of the rock, where fortunate- 
ly he was within my reach, and, after 
many unsuccessful attempts, I succeeded 
in drawing him out. Poor Jack was al- 
most exhausted ; but I got him home, 
and he was undressed and put to bed. 
A severe fit of sickness followed from 
the cold he took that night. Aunt Dor- 
othy always insisted that his sickness 
might have been prevented, if she had 
been permitted to give him a dose of 
her hot-drops, which she always kept by 
her — a specific for all complaints. But 
the physician who was called positively 
forbade it. Physicians do not like to 
have persons who are ignorant of the na- 
ture of diseases, and their proper reme- 
dies, tampering with the human frame. 
Although in some instances they may 
relieve in mild attacks, they often do a 
great deal of harm by giving favorite 



16 



THE PRACTICAL JOKE 



quack medicines, indiscriminately, for all 
complaints. However, by good nursing, 
Jack soon got well ; and we received a 
good lesson, which I have never forgot- 
ten, in the almost fatal termination of the 

* PRACTICAL JOKE.' " 




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